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 Elderly woman crossing road [Alamy image ref. BMR0RP]
Chocolate shop, Poitiers, France [Alamy image ref. B5A2Y6]

In high summer, and in good weather, the Claude Lafond Chocolatier establishment in the rue Lazare Carnot, Poitiers, will be fronted by crowded tables and chairs bordered with troughs of Geraniums to separate those taking tea and cakes or coffee from shoppers and sightseers in the traffic-free “zone piétonne” old quarter of the city. Those people who have come from near and afar will expect to choose from many delicacies prepared every day to amuse and satisfy every palette.

Established since 1957 in the historical centre of Poitiers, the family-run establishment perpetuates the tradition of beautiful selections of desserts, small cakes and chocolates. Together with a staff of more than 50 in other premises around the town, the organisation serves around 1,000 receptions and seminars a year catering for more than 150,000 people.

The shop and café must be well-know further afield too because this image was licensed by a Japanese TV company for use for one year on a programme. The is also much else to see and photograph in Poitiers… but because of my personal situation I have only been able to make two trips there despite that city being only an hour’s drive away. But there and back with a couple of hours shooting amounts to half a day away from my paralyzed wife whom I – being her sole carer for a couple of decades – normally have to return to after a couple of hours away. However, from those two trips I selected 84 images for Alamy… from the 1,456 images with the “Poitiers” tag currently with that agency.

One day I would like to get to “Futuroscope” for some extra stock coverage because there are only 129 images on Alamy with “Futuroscope, Poitiers” as the subject including 5 “RF” of which four have people in them (spot check necessary Alamy… Futuroscope is private property and also recognizable faces of strangers cannot be RF)! The big problem I have with a designated location to visit though is not usually one of time, but one of distractions! On my first visit to Poitiers I must have stopped half a dozen times to photograph churches, bridges, market squares and random signs… all of which doubled the 1-hour journey time there. On my second trip I stayed more focused on the road ahead… but it was difficult not to stop on many occasions.

This shot – which I waited for specifically so as to not include people – was taken at the wide end of my 14-24mm Nikkor zoom… the exotic optics holding contrast well despite the various rays of sunlight bouncing around the scene from random windows.

The RM image was licensed by Alamy for unlimited transmissions in an editorial programme (not for advertising) for 1-year by a Japanese TV company under my “a la France” pseudonym.

La Roche Posay, France. [Alamy image ref. AHE43K]

On many occasions when I have been forced to wait for five minutes or more to progress through a break in the traffic at this narrow gateway in the nearby spa town of La Roche Posay in the Vienne I didn’t think to take a “topical” picture of what it is like to drive, live and shop on top of a “bottleneck”. When I decided to tackle such an angle to illustrate modern traffic conditions in a typical French town with narrow streets in it’s “old quarter” it was an exceptionally quiet day!

More than thirty years ago when I first visited La Roche Posay – I think it must have been before the by-pass had been constructed – I remember a string of large lorries pumping fumes from their exhausts as they waited and waited for a signal from a gendarme to progress with caution through the low, narrow arch of the ancient gateway… and then on to a safer passing and crossing point over the river Creuse a few hundred meters distant. Many towns like this were planned and evolved with defence in mind… horses and carts being the only form of transportation many centuries ago.

Formally recognized as being of public utility in 1869, La Roche Posay became the first spa in Europe exclusively dedicated to skin disorders. The dermatological tradition at La Roche Posay spans five centuries and is based upon Selenium-rich spring water plus a unique store of knowledge and experience recognized the world over. And Napoleon, then General Bonaparte, on his return from Egypt at the beginning of the 19th century, had a thermal hospital built there to treat his soldiers’ skin diseases. Perhaps he marched from the thermal spring to Paris through this arch with his troops… than would have made an impressive photograph… had the camera been invented then!

So a lot has happened here and generations have passed through the portals… but the most I had to show for it on this visit was a couple of cars and cyclists… not even the usual milling crowds window-shopping with others sitting at café tables watching the world go by. In what context this image was used I have no idea… others of mine showing the famous spa buildings have been used several times around the world (although mostly for Polish and Russian publications). Maybe it was used alongside a spa image from another photographer? However, it was my second sale through Alamy and actually came within a couple of days of after my very first sale there… so I regarded the image subject as a gateway to success!

Licensed as Rights Managed by Alamy for reproduction in a weekly consumer magazine in the UK with a 500,000 print-run under my “a la France” pseudonym.

Old corn mower, Wiltshire, UK. [Alamy image ref. AMM00P]

When I lived for a decade at the foot of the northern escarpment of Wiltshire’s desolate Salisbury Plain, there was not a week when I didn’t venture out across the minor roads crossing that expanse of mixed farmland and Army firing ranges.

There were large areas of a geological ground type known as “Greensand” in the locality which created specific problems for farmers. The green color of greensand is due to variable amounts of the mineral glauconite, an iron potassium silicate with very low weathering resistance; as a result, greensand tends to be weak and friable. It is a common ingredient as a source of potassium in organic gardening and farming fertilizers. The greensand found at the foot of Salisbury Plain is also very soft… which means that although farmers have a rich source of soil for their crops, it is difficult to harvest them because of the weight of modern harvesting machinery. As a result there were many small farms from the area roughly from West Lavington (just south of Devizes) through to, and beyond, Pewsey and Hungerford where it was quite normal to see traditional corn stooks in the fields at harvest time. Local farmers used traditional lightweight machinery to cut, bind and dry their crops for later threshing, rather than trying to drive a modern combine-harvester on the land at the risk of one sinking to it’s axles in the earth.

This image was licensed for three years for a half-page reproduction in an English “crafts” book with a 25,000 print-run under my “Farming Today” pseudonym.

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